It was kind of overwhelming how many beautiful women attended GIVEN 2016! I wanted to befriend all of them, but it was impossible. I struggled throughout the week with trying to figure out exactly what Tara and I were going to do next in the planning of the creative retreat. My mind was tempted to figure out what my gifts were, what I was being called to, and if Scatter + Sow and the creative retreat were really what the church needed. I felt an internal pressure to collaborate with as many women as possible while at the forum. There were so many artists, creatives, and women on fire for seeking God’s beauty! However, the way the forum was designed did not place the main focus on our action plans or what we were going to produce.
I began to discover that God wanted me to experience and receive His immense love for me first.
I needed to let my mind rest and stop over complicating things. It was really quite simple. God loves me. Not only does He love me, but He wants to love me in the deep of my heart.
Early in the week, we had the privilege of resting in the prayerful space Audrey Assad created through her beautiful voice. We prayed through singing with her. The Holy Spirit began to go deeper in my heart through His beauty. When she began singing “I Shall Not Want”, I decided it was okay to cry, to be vulnerable, to open my heart. This was the song my husband and I washed each other’s feet to at our wedding reception. I instantly flashed back to those sweet moments with him...his big, gentle hands and warm touch. I saw and felt Neal’s hands, but the beauty was that I was simultaneously experiencing God’s love through Neal’s hands. It was Neal AND God. BOTH were loving me and I was allowing myself to be loved, to be vulnerable, to receive.
The beauty of that experience drew me to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacrament of Reconciliation so I could be cleansed in order to continue being filled with goodness and truth throughout the week. I had been touched by how immense God’s love for me was and I could sense that He wanted me to rest in the gift the Sisters were giving to us for the remainder of the week. I didn’t need to figure everything out. God was going to take care of everything.
Learning how to receive is something I have been working on, especially in marriage. HOW do I receive Neal’s love and return it back to him? HOW do we mirror Jesus’ love for His church through this cycle of giving oneself completely, the receipt of that gift, and the return of that love? I always want to know the practical ways of doing this in marriage as a woman. The GIVEN Forum was helping me to trust that if I opened my heart and rested in being vulnerable, I could receive. I shouldn’t think about HOW to receive or HOW to return the love. I needed to experience the love and the return and giving of myself would follow in whatever way God intended...in marriage and in our action plan for Scatter + Sow.
Dr. Margaret Laracy spoke about women learning how to be daughter AND bride. We are called to be BOTH. We are meant to be loved into existence, be dependent, reserve no area of oneself for private possession, TRUST in God, and be God’s handmaid. I do not have to choose between God and my husband. I can be loved by both and love both back! I have known this for a long time, but soaking in the imagery of feeling my husband’s gentle hands as God’s hands was allowing me to experience the both/and. I also kept thinking about how my husband wanted me to have the opportunity to go to GIVEN and experience it. He drove me five and a half hours to drop me off at the airport and drove five and a half hours home. Then, he would do the same thing to pick me up after the forum. On the other side of the plane ride, my dad had made arrangements to fly to Washington D.C. from Colorado on a voluntary work trip, just so he could be there to pick me up at the airport in Washington D.C. and accompany me to the Catholic University of America. He said that was his only mission. Oh, my heart! I went from the hands of one loving man in my life to another. God has blessed me with such amazing men as my father and husband on this earth. Their love for me was allowing me to experience God’s love as daughter AND bride, simultaneously. It is one thing to hold these truths intellectually, but completely another to experience them to the core of my being. How could I thank God enough?
Dr. Mary Healy spoke on Receiving the Gift of the Kingdom of God. She illustrated a beautiful account of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. All Jesus needed was an open heart. Then, He poured out the living water and filled her heart. She was so filled that she could not contain it and felt compelled to go forth and share! GIVEN was living water being gushed forth from Christ’s pierced side. He was working in His simplicity by loving me, by filling me, by showing His presence through the Sisters, other women attendees, my husband, my dad, and each speaker and event. My thanks and return of love are to let my cup overflow and trust God to funnel my streams of living water where He needs them to go. Thank you to all, I love you back.